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biological weapons


It’s been a taxing time for global geopolitics. Eastern countries sense that the West is in crisis, with its rising debts and aging populations. And the West, like a cornered bear protecting it’s young, is growling and showing its teeth.

But underneath this structural change in the balance of power, lies a few more unsettling trends. One is the fact that the Middle East hasn’t become a new American Midwest with palm trees. In fact, by many accounts, it’s now far more unstable than it was before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Back then, Western countries were riding high on the success of their intervention in Kosovo. The removal of dictators on the edge of Europe was a massive and resounding success. Allied powers, emboldened, turned their attention to the Middle East, expecting a similar result. All they needed to do was depose the dictators, install a democratic government. Iraq and the others would become as peaceful and as benign as Serbia and Montenegro are in today’s Europe.

Well, we all know how that turned out. The Middle East has become a very unstable place. In fact, thanks to the action of NATO countries, the risks to national security appear to be higher than ever before. Countries in the Middle East have become a hotbed for terrorism. It’s clear now that there aren’t any so-called “good guys” in these regions. The people the West supports tend to end up being more radical and more violent than the people the West deposes.

This is where Donald Trump comes in. He’s said on many occasions that he actually favors the despots in the Middle East. At least, he says, they were “good at killing terrorists.”

And this brings us to our second, unsettling trend – the proliferation of terrorism itself. The Washington Forum, organized by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, will meet later this year. They will ask the question of whether or not Jihadism can be defeated.

It’s an important question to ask. This isn’t your average pitched battle between nation states where a victory is well-defined. This is a battle with a set of ideas – ideas that can be communicated instantly over Twitter and other, less well known messenger services. Controlling terrorism, therefore, is like trying to stop the flow of a river. You might block one channel, but it will just reroute itself, and find a new direction in which to flow.

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Right now, terrorism is a significant threat. But the problem is it’s potential to grow as a threat. The terrorist of today have access to makeshift bombs, able to kills hundreds, maybe thousands of people. The terrorists of tomorrow will have access to biological weapons, able to kill far more.

It’s this sobering reality that is forcing the subject of national security to the top of the agenda. And it’s this trend that will drive its importance well into the future. So long as Jihadism remains an idea, the West will have to be vigilant.

President Barack Obama has said the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a “red line” that would change his thinking on intervention in the crisis.

Barack Obama said he had “at this point not ordered military engagement”.

But he added: “There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.”

Earlier the new UN special envoy to Syria faced criticism for refusing to say whether President Bashar al-Assad must quit.

Barack Obama, speaking to reporters at a White House briefing, said the deployment or use of biological weapons would widen the conflict in the region.

He said: “It doesn’t just include Syria. It would concern allies in the region, including Israel, and it would concern us.”

He warned President Bashar al-Assad and “other players on the ground” about the use or movement of such weapons.

He said: “A red line for us is [if] we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized. That would change my calculus.”

President Barack Obama has said the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a "red line" that would change his thinking on intervention in the crisis

President Barack Obama has said the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a "red line" that would change his thinking on intervention in the crisis

Syria holds the world’s fourth-largest stockpile of chemical weapons. Last month a Syrian foreign ministry spokesman said the weapons would never be deployed inside Syria.

However, the US has seen unconfirmed reports recently that the Syrian authorities have been moving the country’s chemical arms stockpile.

Fighting continued in several Syrian cities on Monday, including Damascus, Deraa and Aleppo.

A Japanese journalist, Mika Yamamoto, was killed by gunfire in Aleppo, the country’s foreign ministry has confirmed.

Mika Yamamoto, 45, was a veteran war reporter, working for Japan Press.

The UN says more than 18,000 people have been killed in the conflict, 170,000 have fled Syria and 2.5 million need aid within the country.

Earlier on Monday, the UN’s new envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi said he was “not in a position to say yet” whether President Assad should go, but was “committed to finding a solution”.

Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, last week succeeded Kofi Annan who resigned after both sides largely ignored his peace plan.

On Sunday, UN observers ended their mission to verify its implementation.

Their departure came after the UN Security Council agreed to allow their mandate to expire at midnight, and instead set up a new civilian office in Damascus to pursue political contacts that might lead to peace.

Since being confirmed as the new UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi has acknowledged that he has no concrete ideas of how to end the conflict, which he believes has been a civil war for some time.

On Monday, he said he was not ready to say whether President Assad should step down despite widespread international condemnation of his government’s crackdown on dissent since protests erupted in March 2011.

“I am not in a position to say yet, because I was appointed a couple of days ago. I am going to New York for the first time to see the people who I am going to work for, and I am going to Cairo see the Arab League,” he explained.

After announcing his resignation, Lakhdar Brahimi’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, said: “It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office.”

The main opposition coalition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), said Lakhdar Brahimi’s stance showed “disregard for the blood of the Syrian people and their right of self-determination” and demanded he apologize.

Lakhdar Brahimi stressed that he was “committed to finding a solution full stop”.

“I am a mediator. I haven’t joined any Syrian party. I am a mediator and a mediator has to speak to anybody and everybody without influence or interest,” he added.

“Then I’ll make up my mind about what to say and what to do.”